Mother and daughter meet for lunch

This is the second of a two-part series. Read part one of this series, Your Rights Never Age.

As you grow older, you retain the same rights you had as a 25-year-old. You also gain something that the 25-year-old you never had: wisdom and experience.

The secret to growing old gracefully is to let your rights meld with your wisdom and experience. Your experience will tell you when to start reigning in your rights. Your wisdom will tell you how to do that successfully.

Age brings changes to your mind and your body. Most of them are out of your control. It seems that every new ache or pain leads to new drama: a surgical procedure, a new medication, a variation in your habits to compensate.  

Age means that you can’t physically do what you did as a 25-year-old. For example, the knee you replaced will never be as good as new. This is when rights, experience, and wisdom clash. You still have the right to go downhill skiing. Your experience tells you that your physical skills are now limited, and you could hurt yourself or others. Your wisdom tells you to stop skiing. 

Simple, right? Let’s move on to the messier side of things.  

Empower Yourself by Understanding Your Rights as You Age

You had anesthesia during your knee operation. Older folks usually have a much harder time bouncing back after anesthesia. Your memory and reasoning skills may be affected short-term, and maybe forever.  

You still have the right to manage your finances and personal life. Your experience tells you that your mind has changed, and you could unwittingly make a horrible decision. Your wisdom tells you to rely on others to help you. 

You prepared for this when you were younger. You executed powers of attorney and named agents. At some point it will be time for your agents to act. Wisdom will tell you when.  

What if your reasoning skills have deteriorated to the point where you don’t realize your decline? This is where your preparation takes over. The powers of attorney are ready to go; if you were smart you took them out for a spin before your crisis. You gave your agent authority to handle some things for you well before your operation. This gave you the chance to see how your agent handles decisions. Your agent should have used your philosophy as the guiding light. This is called substituted judgment. Using substituted judgment, doctors and agents try to make the decision that you would have made if you were able to make decisions. 

Your agent should have maintained good records and kept you apprised of every action. Your agent should not have engaged in self-dealing. 

If your agent failed the test, then execute new documents, and name another agent. Experience tells you that the original plan is not working. Wisdom tells you to change it.  

Some decisions that wisdom forces upon you are hard. You have the right to drive. Your cataract surgery does not change that. Experience tells you that seeing halos while driving at night is dangerous. Wisdom tells you to give up the right to drive at night.  

The same with medications. Some side effects are so impactful that you need to give up, at least temporarily, some rights. Let’s go back to driving, because hurtling down a public road in a 3500-pound vehicle while impaired is a bad idea. Medication can lead to dizziness, impaired peripheral vision, and confusion. Wisdom tells you to give up driving before you kill someone. 

You have rights. Experience and wisdom will tell you when to surrender them.

Hammerle Finley Can Help With Your Guardianship and Estate Planning Needs

If you have questions about guardianship or estate planning, schedule a consultation to get help from one of our experienced attorneys.

Attorney Virginia Hammerle, of Hammerle Finley Law Firm, is in her fifth decade of law practice. She is Board Certified in Civil Trial Law and an Accredited Estate Planner. Reach her at This column does not constitute legal advice.